Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review of Hope's Journey by Stephanie Connelley Worlton

Over my spring break, I had the chance to read Stephanie Connelley Worlton’s book, Hope’s Journey. It’s the story of a high school girl and her boyfriend and their decision of how to deal with a major unexpected trial. From the back cover:
A couple since their sophomore year, Sydney and Alex are looking forward to graduation and a bright future together. Sydney is  straight-A student trying to decide between college scholarships and Alex is a quiet jock preparing to serve a mission. Both active members of the LDS Church, their hopes and dreams painfully fade when they learn that Sydney is pregnant. The very foundations of their faith are shaken, as is their relationship. Separately, they venture through confusion, self-doubt, and failure as they learn the value of forgiveness and try to piece their broken lives back together. 

The story is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. As the mother of three teenagers, it made me think a little more about if I really know what my children are up to, what it means to allow a child to learn to be independent, and how, as a parent, to guide them in their decision making while allowing them to make their own decisions, and rely on the Lord as they do so.

My oldest right now is dealing with deciding on which university to attend this fall. Ultimately, it is his decision, even though I have a very strong opinion. I just have to trust that he will remember some of what I’ve taught these past many years and will be able to listen for, and to, the Holy Ghost as he tries to make the best decision for himself at this time of life. My son’s decision is nowhere near the same as Sydney and Alex’s decision in the book, yet in other ways, it’s not so very different. He still must seek answers for himself, and to do so, he must be willing to put in the work, listen for the answer, and then be willing to do what he’s being prompted to do. (I loved the “blue footprint” part of Hope’s Journey. It was probably my favorite part, but I won’t spoil it here…just make sure you look for it!)

As a Young Women’s president, I appreciated reading this book—especially knowing the why this character allowed herself to succumb to temptation. I truly believe in the Atonement of the Savior and know that repentance is real, but if I can help, in any small way, to keep one young woman from feeling that she is unimportant or unloved, or keep her from making such a mistake, it would be worth it. It is always good to be reminded not to judge, but to love.

Besides the thematic importance of this novel, I enjoyed reading Stephanie’s prose with the fun banter and smooth writing. I appreciated the fact that it was written from both the boy’s perspective as well as the girl’s point of view. They both had such different reactions to the same situation, which made it plausible and balanced.

Now in case you're wondering, even though these two teenagers make one decision, I don't think that the author is saying that's the only correct decision to make in every situation. I don't think she writes it as a way to justify or guilt teens who find themselves in similar circumstances to make the same decision. Just as we shouldn’t judge Sydney for her choice, we shouldn’t judge those who offer their baby for adoption, either. I admire Sydney’s courageous decision to follow the Spirit in making an unpopular decision, but that was her situation, and I'm sure the author joins me in saying that adoption is just as courageous, just as loving, just as healing as raising the child. And that's what I liked about this book. It is about doing the best that we can, righting our wrongs, forgiveness, and above all, hope.

My final word: Hope’s Journey is definitely worth the read. If you'd like to enter a contest to win a free autographed copy of Hope's Journey head on over to Stephanie's blog. Poke around a bit and you'll find the backstory, contest details, puchase links, reviews, and all kinds information.